After observing the cool outdoor shades John Avenson installed on the exterior of his passive solar wall, I wanted to add solar shades to the Trombe wall to prevent it from heating up in the summer. I priced automatic shades and came up with a pretty high total expenditure. Then I researched DIY.
The tried and true DIY shade motors were Rollerhouse sold through Amazon. I researched the pulling strength of the motors and decided on 24v since the secondhand cracked solar panel on the front wall is 24v. I happened to have a Grape Solar 12/24 volt solar controller. I purchased two 12v 10ah deep cycle LiFePO4 batteries to power the shades. Each shade uses a very small amount of power-about 1 amp. The specifications allow for 12 lbs of lift and I weighed a full shade at about 5 lbs.
I have several bolts of vinyl from a Repurposed Materials auction. It seemed a shame not to use it to make my own shades. I cut approximately 9 ft of material and washed each piece of vinyl in the washing machine with cold water. Then it dried in the sun. I bought 1 1/4 inch galvanized conduit for the shades roller size I purchased. Actual internal size of the 1 1/4” conduit is about 1 1/2”. Then I cut the width of both the vinyl and the pipe to fit the block wall section.
In order to attach the rollers to the underside of the overhang in front of the wall I bought 1×4 cedar boards and installed the shade hangers. Then I screwed the board to the overhang. The roller motor rubber grips had to be shaved a little to slip into the pipe. I attached the shade with 2 sided 3m tape and a layer of outdoor waterproof tape. The tricky part was being sure the shade was square on the pipe and square at the bottom. I used my industrial Sailrite sewing machine to stitch a small hem at the bottom. I used 1/2” aluminum or zinc rods slipped into the hem to weigh them down. But apparently there is a shortage of these rods. I bought three Home Depot had in stock and ordered one at ridiculous expense from Amazon. I thought I was getting three. Read the fine print don’t go by the pictured item.
The shades have to be programmed to the remotes that come with each shade. I wanted to control them all with one device so I also bought the 15 shade remote.
After the initial pairing of the remote the top and bottom limits can be set. For one shade I could not get the top and bottom set. So I contacted support but they just suggested I reprogram from the start and do the erase remote signals three times to be sure it was a fresh start. I finally boxed it up and returned it as malfunctioning even though I had trimmed the rubber roller to fit the pipe. I ordered a replacement.
I assembled the west wall of shades and programmed them to rise and fall the right amount but one kept getting off track. So I removed it and re-squared the material on the pipe.
The batteries were working great but the solar controller seemed to have a broken load connection. I was not getting any power there. I temporarily tried another older controller and got power. So I looked up the problem and the manual indicated it could be a programming issue. I could not figure it out so I just used the battery connection instead. I lined the black battery box with styrofoam to keep the batteries cool and will cover it with white vinyl.
As I wired the shades I realized that the bare wiring was not going to be sustainable. The connections needed to be waterproof. I ordered 1/2” flex conduit and waterproof electrical boxes to contain the wires.
The wiring is tiny. Maybe 20 gauge. I wired them in series because there was enough wiring to run from box to box. I have plenty of old 2 wire thermostat wire so I will use that to reach the Southeast wall.
Each time I work on these I make a huge tool mess on the kitchen table. Although after 4 of them I’ve streamlined the work a little bit more.
I have two more to assemble. The third panel on the Southeast wall is under the window so I don’t think I’ll use a shade there.